Obesity is a major health issue in America today, second only to tobacco use as the leading preventable cause of death. Consider these facts:
- Two-thirds of all American adults are overweight
- One in 20 Americans is considered morbidly obese (100 or more pounds overweight)
- Obesity rates have nearly doubled in the last 20 years
- 400,000 people die every year from obesity and related issues
What is Obesity?
Obesity is the storage of energy – or excess calories – in the form of fat, which occurs when more calories are consumed than the body burns in activity. It is a chronic disease that ultimately leads to many other serious diseases, and is closely associated with each individual’s metabolic “set point.” We are each born with this set point, which drives our individual weight and body composition. An obese person may store more energy as fat, not necessarily because he or she eats more than a non-obese person, but because that is simply how his or her body works.
Causes of Obesity
There are many causes of obesity:
- Genetic predisposition [link to paragraph below]
- Behavior and environment [link to paragraph below]
- Other causes, including thyroid disease, neurological disorders, hormones, and the use of certain drugs (about one percent of cases)
The prevailing cause in the vast majority of individuals is genetic. Most people are clearly born with a genetic predisposition to become overweight. Studies of individuals adopted at birth show that they more often end up in the weight category of their biological parents than that of their adopted parents, as “nature” overrides “nurture” in these instances. Other types of studies reaffirm this trend.
Behaviors and environment are also implicated in obesity. Calorie-dense foods and large portions are the norm today, and in our sedentary society it takes a concerted and conscious effort to exercise enough to burn the same number of calories that were burned in the average day just 50 years ago. Also, years of dieting and gaining and losing weight can alter a person’s metabolism.
Do you suffer from obesity’s co-morbidities?
Morbid obesity is a chronic disease. It is well recognized to be a major cause of premature death and many serious medical conditions, or “co-morbidities,” including:
- Heart disease
- Type II Diabetes mellitus
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol and triglycerides
- Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome
- Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Degenerative joint disease
- Urinary incontinence
- Infertility in females
- Increased risk of some cancers
- Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (fatty liver disease)
- Ankle edema and leg ulcers
- Idiopathic intracranial hypertension
- Increased risk of stroke
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Your BMI is a measurement used to determine if your weight is posing serious risks to your health. If you have a BMI of 30 or higher, you are considered overweight, and that extra weight is putting your health in danger. If your BMI is 35 or above, you are considered morbidly obese. If your BMI is 40 or higher, or is 35 or higher with two co-morbidities, you may be a candidate for weight loss surgery. Use our online calculator to find your BMI?